Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Institutional Repositories: What Are They Good For?

Edit: all of the following presumes that we define success of IRs in terms of holding peer-reviewed scholarly works, as Steve Harnad does. Whether that is a good idea or not is its own argument.

Discussing institutional repositories yesterday in my scholarly communications class and how to convince faculty to archive in them, a question was posed: how do you convince a faculty member that submits their work to gold OA publications that participate in CLOCKSS to self-archive in the IR? Is there a good reason for them to?

Well, to answer that question, we need to look at the benefits of a IR versus that of said publication. Cullen and Chawner (2011) identify four key aspects of scholarly communication: registration (who  does this belong to?)*, certification (is this any good?), awareness (how do we let others know about this?), and archiving (how to we ensure this is always available in the future?). A traditional publication does all four of these things to varying degrees of success: they identify the author, they certify the work through peer review, they raise awareness through marketing the publication, and they keep back-copies, though they really rely a lot on research libraries for archiving. When librarians and others who promote and maintain IRs stress the value of them, we generally focus on awareness and archiving. We increase awareness of the publication through making it freely accessible in the IR with a permanent link and searchable online, through standards such as OAI-PMH, and build trust among scholars that we will maintain those documents online (Kim 2011).

But, Cullen and Chawner (2011) find in their research that scholars are considered more with registration and certification than awareness and archiving, which are two things that IRs do not do at this moment. Now, let's compare it to that gold OA publication: it has the registration and certification (peer-review) part down, and it compares favorably with the IR on awareness and archiving. Like the IR, it's online, for free, with a stable link, and is indexed by search engines, making it findable and accessible by more than the traditional article. Additionally, with CLOCKSS it ensures that even if the publisher goes under the article is preserved. It does it all in one. How can the IR compete with that, especially long-term?   

Well, we could draw on the idea of the decoupled journal championed by Priem and Hemminger (2012). Putting aside the good objections with their ideas on implementation and looking at the idea in the abstract, they identify functions of scholarly communication nearly identical to Cullen and Chawner: archiving, registration, dissemination, and certification. IRs have the archiving down, as well as part of the dissemination through their metadata. Now, why would a scholar want to disengage their certification from archiving and dissemination?** Priem and Hemminger hope for an increased diversity of certification/assessment under a decoupled system, and I agree that there is a lot of potential benefit here. A multidisciplinary work could be certified by groups in multiple disciplines. There could be certification as to how well the work follows accepted research practice, as well as those for "significance." Those representing traditionally disadvantaged perspectives could have certifications for disciplines, so a mainstream economics paper could be evaluated by feminist economics as to how well is avoids andocentric ideas. There can be anonymous and open review. Some of these the author would submit to, while others may take the Journal of the Digital Humanities model and go looking for things to certify. Thus, the object could investigated and certified from a variety of perspectives, allowing for a more nuanced understanding of quality than now (where something is either accepted or rejected). The object in the IR could display the varied certifications that the scholarly work received with it, perhaps using an open badge framework, so while the IR does not certify, it archives certifications.

Cullen, R. and Chawner, B. (2011). ' Institutional Repositories, Open Access, and Scholarly Communication: A Study of Conflicting Paradigms.' The Journal of ACademic Librarianship 37:6, 460-470. DOI:10.1016/j.acalib.2011.07.002

Kim, J. (2011). 'Motivations of Faculty Self-Archiving in Institutional Repositories.'The Journal of Academic Librarianship 37:3, 246-254. DOI:10.1016/j.acalib.2011.02.017

Priem, J. and Hemminger, B.M. (2012). 'Decoupling the Scholarly Journal.' Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience, 6, 1-13. DOI:10.3389/fncom.2012.00019

*Cullen and Chawner, as well as Roosendaal and Geurts, whom they borrow this framework from, never do a particularly good job of explaining what they mean by registration, other than in involves intellectual property and copyright, so I'm going to focus less on it.
**Remember, I'm still not touching registration.

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